TGA Premier Sports, the largest golf and tennis franchisor in the country and recent addition to the Youth Athletes United portfolio, has continued to grow rapidly over the past year as more families look to bring youth sports enrichment programs into their communities.
As a 22-year-old University of Tampa student, Kevin Rooney was a PGA intern at Ridgewood Country Club in Bergen County, N.J., working as a caddie and outside operations worker. He also had a passion for impacting youth and introducing kids to golf.
In 2006, he discovered a unique career opportunity through an upstart youth sports franchise company, TGA Premier Sports, that specialized in bringing youth golf programs directly to school campuses and local community centers. He quickly became TGA’s youngest franchise owner, covering Bergen County, New Jersey.
“I was seeking a career in the golf industry that could allow me to grow and build my own business, and the jobs then seemed to be tough to find,” recalls Rooney. “I really liked TGA’s franchise model because there was an established infrastructure, start-up fees were reasonable, and I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. My strengths were business and marketing. Combining that with TGA’s expertise in education and curriculum, bringing golf into schools was vital to my success. It was also the only youth sports franchise business offered anywhere in the golf industry.”
TGA’s model to bring golf directly to school campuses was sweeping the nation and it did not take long for Rooney to expand his business with a second franchise in Westchester County in 2008 — before adding tennis to his offerings in 2012. That’s when the United States Tennis Association recognized the value of the innovative model that was bringing golf into schools, and began working with TGA to create the only youth sports franchise model in tennis. TGA — which was recently acquired by major youth sports franchise brand Youth Athletes United — remains the only youth sports franchise in that space specializing in golf and tennis.
Sixteen years later he is now the brand’s largest franchise owner who continues to expand his business, showcasing the long-term scalability of the model and well-positioned nature of the concept. He has also helped TGA become one of the largest junior golf programs in America — being in 100+ schools in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area with more than 50,000 kids participating in golf and tennis programs to date.
Rooney is glad he was able to recognize the potential benefits of franchising early on — being able to use TGA’s proven business model, curriculum and lesson plans. “I could also have a flexible schedule and could still caddie and do the other things I wanted to do,” he says. “I knew that as much effort as I put in, I would get rewarded. I was in control of the growth and bottom line. I’ve had that work ethic since childhood — riding my bike to caddie at 6 a.m. on weekends or skipping prom to work. I knew I could successfully grow the business.”
And as someone who has played golf since age 10, Rooney says he also recognized an opportunity to bring a much-needed service to his community’s youth and families. “Growing up where I did, the only way someone could have access to junior golf was by being a member of the country club,” he says. “It was my passion to give kids access to convenient and reasonably priced golf lessons. We can come right to the school for kids who didn’t even know they wanted to learn golf.”
One of the most unique aspects to TGA’s model is the Player Pathway it’s created for kids to become lifelong golfers. Once students go through the after-school enrichment classes, they move on to experience the game through local golf course partnerships that TGA develops. Rooney will conduct 40+ week-long summer camps at three area courses, rec centers, and YMCA facilities — as well as run parent/child clinics. From there, kids transition into other national junior golf programs. During the off-season, Rooney facilitates indoor simulator golf sessions which often include instruction from TGA coaches and fun games/contests. Similar tennis programs are also run at local tennis facilities.
“We’ve evolved from being just an after-school program to a year-round multi-faceted youth sports learning platform, which includes leagues, tournaments, camps and an entire pathway for kids age three through 17 to be introduced to golf and tennis,” said Rooney. “I’m seeing high school kids that I taught when they were in elementary school now teaching kids that are the same age.”
Rooney says he’s also leveraged TGA’s multi-sports platform to introduce volleyball, cheerleading, and more to his community. “As an experienced franchise business owner, I see the value and benefits of creating a multi-sports platform where kids can learn, especially since they may not be sure which sport they want to play as a young kid,” he says. “Camps and clinics allow kids to explore new sports and potentially follow the pathway. We’ve also been creative with what we have and what we offer, whether it be before-school programs, event programs, facility partnerships, and more.”
With this creative and constantly evolving strategy, Rooney’s been able to stay at the forefront of the TGA system. His location has been the system’s top revenue producer since 2010 and has grown steadily each year.
“If I can set an example for other franchisees across the country, that’s great,” says Rooney. “The work that my team and I have put in over the years is paying off. I’ve had three directors as full-time employees for five-plus years now, and the quality of programs, level of customer service and opportunities we provide is next-level.”
Looking ahead, Rooney says that while he might be on his way to being the first TGA franchisee to earn $1 million in revenue in a year, he sees his success in how many kids and families he is impacting, providing more opportunities for kids to play sports, and continuing to grow the participation rates.
“Kevin Rooney is a perfect example of how TGA franchise owners have the ability to customize their ‘youth sports delivery system’ in a way that aligns with their passions and business goals to build a fun and successful career opportunity, says Laura Sappington, Senior Director of Operations for TGA. “Kevin’s success further solidifies that our business model is working to empower entrepreneurs to activate golf and tennis programs in their communities and do it in a way that is more achievable from a financial standpoint and greater value proposition.”
Youth Athletes United, with its 250+ together with TGA Premier Sports has continued to grow rapidly the past year, as more families seek sports activities, and health and wellness programs. Passionate entrepreneurs are also looking to bring youth sports enrichment programs into their communities. According to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, tennis and golf saw a 22.4% and 13.2% participation growth in the last year, respectively, due in large part to the pent-up demand for getting outside and being active during the pandemic.
TGA, which has already impacted more than 850,000 kids nationwide, is currently looking for franchise partners in Tennessee, Nevada, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Connecticut, Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio.
The total cost to open a TGA Premier Sports franchise ranges from $42,700-$113,000, which includes a franchise fee of $30,000-$70,000. For more information, visit https://www.franchisetga.com/.